Christianity seems to have been the first world religion that was interested in and successful with establishing itself as not only the state religion of but practically the only in an empire - namely, the late Roman Empire as its client and successor states. Christianity seems to have become the only legal religion (with the apparent exception of Judaism) and every person was expected to follow it. In particular, followers of ancient Roman, Greek and Egyptian (etc.) Pagans were prevented first from practicing their religion in public, then from following the religion at all with persecutions of 'heretics' following in good time.


As I understand the timeline,

Although Christian historiography does not seem to like to talk about the murder of Pagans by Christians, it seems to have been part of the campaign to kill the pagan priests. I am not sure about whether and to what extent other religions were persecuted as well. Judaism is the only religion to survive the persecutions in the long run; Mithraism too had a substantial following in the Roman empire, etc.

Related questions

It was asked before why Christianity was more successful in gaining followers before it became dominant and suppressed rivaling religions. The two answers list several interesting factors (the missionary nature, the inclusive message, the inception at the time of the Pax Romana, etc.). Other possible explanations seem to be discussed in the literature (ministering to and caring for the sick, higher valuation of women, faster population growth rates, etc.). The question I am asking is different: How did they manage to stamp out all other religions?

Edit (May 23 2018):

Summary of some answers and comments so far and remaining problems

Answers so far have identified three approaches to explain the phenomenon:

  • Christianity and paganism were fundamentally different and essentially not the same type of thing. Paganism was more a tradition, unorganized, non-evangelical, not translatable into other contexts. Christianity was a religion, it spread without resistance and then uprooted the tradition of paganism because it was hostile to other religions as which it (mistakenly?) saw paganism. Problems: Does not explain why Christianity did not achieve the same dominance in other empires and states, in Persia, in Axum, in pagan Northern and Eastern Europe, in Indian states. All of them were exposed to Christianity. But it took many centuries to supplant paganism in Northern and Eastern Europe and Christianity was never more than one of many coexisting religions in Persia or India or China.
  • The Roman empire was struggling for survival and with a failing economy and the gradual dissolution of the rule of law, the government (that is, the emperor, his army, and his administration) was desperate to create a unifying force. The old state religion was unable to provide this, even though the Romans tried very hard to make this happen (by identifying Roman gods with particular gods in traditional polytheistic religions followed by other subjects). After trying and failing to suppress dissenting cults (Christianity, Dyonisos, Mithras, Isis, Manichaeism), they forged an alliance with one of them and continued to suppress the others along with remnants of the now undesirable traditional pagan religion. Problems: It does not explain how Christianity either provided the societal coherence the emperor was allegedly seeking or how it was able to suppress the other cults completely.
  • Francis Fukuyama's argument that humans need religion and tend to follow natural leaders. While it feels like a thinly veiled defense of religious conservatism, there is some evidence for this for the case of modern societies. Problems: The argument is much weaker, if it is attempted to apply this to pre-modern or ancient societies. There are many examples where attempts to convert pre-modern societies failed, in particular bottom-up approaches. To just mention two examples: 1. Lithuanian paganism continued in Europe until the 1400s CE, even though they were surrounded by Christian states, until the monarch converted and was given the Polish crown as a reward. 2. Islam apparently spread in south-east Asia first among the rulers; Christianity was reportedly successfully introduced in Ethiopia by converting the king. This is not the population following a leader or converging to an ideology, this is management on the part of the government. It could still be argued that Fukuyama's argument holds, but then it must be shown that Roman society was like modern society in that respect. Admittedly, the spread of Christianity in ancient Rome started out as a grassroots movement, but ancient Rome was lacking many characteristics of modern societies that facilitated the spread of ideologies (Following Benedict Anderson: printing press, unified concepts of space and time,…).

Note: The question was changed from "why" to "how". The question intends to ask for the mechanism for the religious monopoly, not the justification. The first version of the question was not clear on this matter.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Semaphore
    May 26, 2018 at 17:13

4 Answers 4


A major underlying factor to keep in mind is that Christianity is monotheistic. Christianity flatly admits no god besides its own; Pagans were accustomed to a great multitude of (often local) deities coexisting. Christians were thus commanded to shun pagan deities as false; pagans had no ideological compunction to not be at least keep their minds open to the Christian God.

In other words, Christianity had a raw advantage through simple attrition.

Furthermore, because monotheism is such a core tenet for Christians, and pluralism so natural to Pagans, it was ironically possible for Christianity to absorb paganism but not vice versa. Pagan beliefs need only be slightly revised to avoid conflict with the supremacy of the Christian god. Christianity, however, could not ever coexist with Pagan gods without violating its first principle.


This Ostarâ, like the AS Eástre, must in the heathen religion have denoted a higher being, whose worship was so firmly rooted, that the christian teachers tolerated the name, and applied it to one of their own grandest anniversaries . . . Ostarâ, Eástre seems therefore to have been the divinity of the radiant dawn, of upspringing light, a spectacle that brings joy and blessing, whose meaning could be easily adapted to the resurrection-day of the christian's God.

Grimm, Jacob. Teutonic Mythology: Translated from the 4th Ed. with Notes and Appendix by James Steven Stallybrass. Dover Publications, 1966.

The Christian adoption of Saturnalia is also well known.

However, Christianity was also simply more conceptually attractive in many respects. Roman, Hellenic, and most forms of paganism in general were fundamentally not an organised religion, with concrete doctrines and coherent teachings, the way Christianity was.

Part of the problem lay in the old religion's highly local character and its lack of oecumenical structures, or indeed, teachings . . . polytheism was so bound up with the life-cycle . . . that it was in some respects simply self-evident, and could just as well survive within Christianity. So thoroughly immanentist a religion could not easily be conceptualized or, therefore, defended.

Bowman, Alan, Edward Champlin, and Andrew Lintott. The Cambridge Ancient History. Cambridge University Press, 1996.

To a large degree, Paganism was simply the traditions of a community. This is barely adequate as a reason to hang on to followers - plenty of intellectuals were atheists in the Roman world. Moreover, tradition offers little attraction to those who weren't born within to it.

That didn't matter when there was no alternatives (although atheism was not unheard of in the Roman world); Christian theology, whatever its merits, offered exactly just that.

Now, to be sure, there were attempts to reform paganism to better fit the times. However, these efforts largely saw little success among the populace. More crucially, by then Christianity had gained a fatal head start (see below).

In addition, Christianity was able to exploit its twin advantages in both retention and attraction because it is an evangelical faith. Most pagan gods were local or situational. As mentioned earlier, they were basically whatever had "worked" for a community. There is no institution to preach, little motivation to spread, and so no reason to bother. In contrast, Christians were commanded to spread the gospels as far and wide as they can.

Even Judaism, being culturally linked to being a jew, could not compete in this regard. The combination of all these effects meant that, unsurprisingly, religious converts tended to only go in one direction only. Over the course of centuries, Christians thus inevitably eclipsed all the other religious groups in the empire.

Why was the replacement so complete? Well, it's important to note here that Pagan Rome was religiously tolerant. There was no ideological imperative to stamp out other pagan deities - indeed the Romans systematically interpreted foreign gods as equivalent to their own. Imperial subjects could worship whichever deity or deities they liked, so long as they obeyed the state.

In contrast, as mentioned earlier, a basic tenet of the Christian faith is to reject all other gods besides their own as false, and to propagate itself. Therefore, once Christians gained control of the instruments of state, they were compelled by religious dogma to impose their faith - if not in substance, than at least in name. Hence, the Edit of Thessalonica in AD 380.

By the end of the fourth century tolerance in religion, which had been the pride of Roman paganism, was destroyed by Gratian and Theodosius, the latter winning his title "Great" from the Christians for his intolerant act of making Christianity the sole religion of the State and banning its rivals.

Hyde, Walter Woodburn. Paganism to Christianity in the Roman Empire. Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2008.

This also squashed potential challengers of the Christian mastery of the Roman world.

Regarding OP's follow up question,

Christianity and paganism were fundamentally different and essentially not the same type of thing. Paganism was more a tradition, unorganized, non-evangelical, not translatable into other contexts . . . Problems: Does not explain why Christianity did not achieve the same dominance in other empires and states

But it does. Frankly, I'm puzzled by your objections; all of your examples were either Christian, or had other popular religions that were nothing like Roman Paganism. Did you perhaps think that the description of Roman paganism that you summarised was applicable to every non-Christian religion everywhere else? I assure you it was not.

in Persia

Which had as its state religion the native Zorastranism, an organised, monotheistic religion with its own well defined theology and scripture. How is this at all comparable to paganism in the Roman Empire?

in Axum

Which became Christian as early as the 4th century, and remained so even when it was pushed inland by the rising Islamic world. Even today its Orthodox Church continue to be the largest denomination in Ethiopia. I don't understand the basis of this objection at all.

in pagan Northern and Eastern Europe . . . But it took many centuries to supplant paganism in Northern and Eastern Europe

And it took many centuries for Christianity to take over the Roman Empire too. Rome didn't adopt Christianity as its official religion until some 350 years after Jesus died. The first recorded Christian mission to Scandinavia began in 710; Sweden was the last to officially adopt Christianity, in 1164. This is hardly a noteworthy difference in timescale.

Moreover, the Roman world was developed and integrated when Christianity was birthed, which allowed comparatively rapid dissemination of ideas. The fact that Christianity began within its borders also helped. Nordic and Slavic Europe were a patchwork of underdeveloped petty kingdoms, and missionaries took their time visiting.

in Indian states.

Which was literally the birthplace of Buddhism, an (depending on sects) evangelical, organised religion with extensive scriptures and teachings. Again, none of the elements I described and you yourself summarised about Roman Paganism applied.

or China

Which had:

  1. A deeply entrenched pesudo-religious state philosophy, that not only reserve to itself the entire apparatus of state, also claims for the apex of temporal world order an essentially deified Son of Heaven.
  2. Taoism, an organised, institutionalised native religion with a complete system of philosophy. Imagine if Roman Paganism had the chance to develop into a cohesive, empire-wide belief system.
  3. By the time of Christianity, Buddhism had already taken root.

All three religions had their own scriptures and institutions. Once again, none of the elements about Roman paganism applied in China.

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    Without contradicting: something is missing in this rather almost deterministic account. Oversimplified: I wonder why Christianity and Islam spread West with total dominance and intolerance, yet in India they both failed to a certain degree at the same task and in Indonesia Islam grew much more tolerant? May 21, 2018 at 20:45
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    @LangLangC I would argue that the degree of tolerance of both Christianity and Islam varied a great deal across time and region. Nicaean/Catholic Christianity was notoriously intolerant for many centuries but has become more open in the last 200 years or so. Nestorian and Ethiopian Christianity seems to always have displayed a certain degree of tolerance. Islam, in turn, while always brutal in its treatment of paganism, used to be more tolerant than in recent times, at least towards what were considered religions of the book.
    – 0range
    May 21, 2018 at 22:29
  • Now: how & why did roman tolerance & evocatio deorum not work? –– equation of roman paganism with all other non-christian paganisms: the obvious differences in biases between you and OP (or traditional christ. teaching/dogma) are implicitly visible, made explicit it would be great, even if a bit meta-ish. –– "But it does." is sth I am unsure about: you meant, grammar ("did"); you think it's still going on? (Evangelicals & Ferguson comes to mind) –– First principle clashing with roman paganism and christian tolerance today: is this a timescale problem or flexibility for principles? May 28, 2018 at 18:35
  • @LangLangC The "it" in but it does refers to this answer, hence present tense, because in my view it does explain the progress or lack thereof by Christianity in other parts of the world. It's not a reference to the process described in this answer, as you seem to be interpreting it as.
    – Semaphore
    May 30, 2018 at 8:40

Question (Part 1): Christianity seems to have been the first world religion that was interested in and successful with establishing itself as not only the state religion of but practically the only in an empire - namely, the late Roman Empire as its client and successor states.

I don't think Christianity was really "first" at any of those things. They weren't the first to persecute nor were they the first to be recognized as the official faith of a great empire.

Intolerance of other religions wasn't unique to fourth and fifth century Christians. The Christian experience in the first, second, third centuries at the hands of Judaism, and various Pagan religions is example enough to refute that.

Likewise Zoroastrianism was the state religion of the Persian Empire which was one of the greatest empires of it's time. Buddhism was a state religion of the Mauryan empire (322–180 BCE). Hinduism was the official religion of the Gupta Empire(c. 320-650 CE). All of which predate Nicene Christianity becoming the official religion of Rome in 380 AD.

Christianity broadly could be argued to be the last religion to obtain supremacy in Rome, but not the first. Likewise it's only with modern eyes that one can make this claim because the early church faced so many problems with heretics, schisms, and violent reformations that it's very hard to claim a monolithic "Christian" identity between cities which were still struggling with Christian unified doctrine nearly up until the time the western Roman empire blinked out of existence in AD 476.

Question (Part 2): As I understand the timeline,

  • Christianity was legalized by Constantine in 313 CE;

In Feb 313, Constantine the great(western Augustus) and his primary rival Licinius(eastern Augustus) agreed to peace terms including both signing the jointly authored Edict of Milan which granted religious freedom within both halves of the Roman Empire, yes this included tolerance of Christianity. However shortly after this agreement Licinius reneged on this pledge and once again returned to the policy of suppressing Christians. Christianity did not get lasting tolerance (* of a sort) until after Constantine become the sole Emperor of Rome after the Battle of Chrysopolis(September 18, 324). A war fought against Licinius for soul supremacy over Rome.

(*) There was no uniform Christian faith prior to the first Church Council held at Nicea(325 AD). Christianity had endured centuries of persecution and was organized into individual franchises with 1 all powerful bishop per City. These Bishops didn't communicate widely during the times of persecution, due to the risks of discovery and doctrinally had grown apart. They didn't agree on what it meant to be Christian. The Romans were all about Unity and the Pagan Emperor Constantine the Great called the first church council of all the Bishops to create a profession of faith and promote the desired Unity. Constantine called the Bishops to come to him, Nicea is a suburb of Constantine's eastern Roman Capitol Constantinople. Constantine didn't get all the Christian Bishop to attend, most of the invited Christian Bishops did not attend. Important Bishops like the Bishop of Rome(Pope) were absent, and those he did get disagreed. Under Constantine's leadership and political pressure the Bishops in attendance crafted a creed, the Nicean Creed which defined what it was to be christian. This Creed had the majority of the support of the Bishops in attendance at Nicea, but most of the Christian Bishops were not in attendance. So many powerful church leaders disagreed with it, by the time of Constantine's death it was already out of favor. After Nicea their wasn't consensus but at least after Nicea christians began separating themselves/organizing into different belief systems. (One Rotating officially recognized, the rest persecuted heretics) Whichever belief system had the emperor's ear became the legitimate faith, and the others were labeled heretical and there followers persecuted. The next three Roman Emperors after Constantine would not be Nicean Christians. The Nicean Christians which dominate today's Christianity (belief in the Trinity, and Jesus as an equal god head with the Father and Holy Ghost) were themselves heretical for several decades after the death of Constantine, who was attended on his deathbed (May 22, 337 AD) by an excommunicated Arian bishop (Eusebius of Caesarea) . Nicene Christians didn't regain control of the faith (Catholic Church) until 380AD when they were again recognized by the Emperor as the favored branch of Christianity.

Question (Part 3): - pagan rituals were prohibited by Constantius II in or before 353 CE and again by Valentinian II and Theodosius.

Not all Pagan rituals, primarily those involving sacrifices. Auguries, where a pagan priest would interpret the desires of the gods by the entrails of animals was outlawed under Constantine the Great and Constantius continued that policy along with the condemnation of magicians and fortune tellers who were kind of seen as con-men preying on the people.

Pagan religions continued in Rome long after Constantius II.

Constantius II himself was deified by the Roman Senate after his death. Constantius II was actually fairly tolerant of Roman's Pagans. Again, Religion was pursued by the Roman Emperors to unify the empire, and that did not include persecutions of the majority of your citizens who were still Pagans under Constantius. Well unless the persecutions lead to consolidation of beliefs, then it was fair game. Constantius wasn't above persecution of Christians who didn't get with his doctrinal program, namely elevating Nicean beliefs above those of other Heretical teachings. Constantius is best remembered for trying to find a moderate path between two of the largest Christian sects which were vying for control of the Church. Those which follow the Nicean Creed which most Christians today subscribe too and a sect called Arianism which taught God as the Father predates Jesus the son. The difference between made not begotten, and begotten not made professed by most Christians in church every Sunday to this day in the Nicean Creed.

Question (Part 4): - Finally, Theodosius, apparently pushed to it by Saint Ambrose seems to have led a violent campaign against paganism 392-395 CE (at a time when according to wikipedia still half the empire was pagan).

Theodosius became Emperor in the Eastern Empire in January 379AD. He became Emperor in the west in May of 392 AD, and he died in January of 395AD. During his turbulent 16 year rule he was at war for 15 years. 3 years with the Goths and 11 years with Roman rulers in the West. Theodosius crackdown on Roman's Pagans had everything to do with suppressing revolutionaries and rivals to his throne and less to do with Christianity.

Question (Part 5): How did Christians manage to stamp out all other religions?

In the 4th Century it was mostly all about Rome and Rome's interest and pursuit of a unifying force in their fractured and still splintering empire.

In the first century AD the Roman Emperor Augustus Ruled for 45 years (31 BCE–14 CE). In the Second Century Rome had 9 Emperors. From the beginning of the third century 200AD to 306AD there had been 34 emperors. In 306 AD the life expectancy of a Roman Emperor could be counted on one hand(about 3 years on average). Constantine's father (Constantius I) had ruled as Augustus in the Western Empire for less than 1 year before dying in Britain during a war with the Picts. In 306Ad when Constantius I died, leaving Constantine as heir to the throne, Constantine obvious first thought was, how am I going to survive this. One of his first steps was to turned from persecutor of christians to advocate for the religion. His armies while made up almost entirely of Pagans (mostly Mithraism/Sun Cult ) fought under the sign of the cross. ( Christians were pacifists in 306AD ). Why did Constantine turn to Christianity? It was a strategy to unify and stabilize the Roman Empire. His life literally depended on finding a better way. To be named Emperor of Rome in 306 AD was otherwise a death sentence. He would promote the religion and influence it to yield the kinds of citizens he he believed christianity could help him grow.

I would argue the Roman Empire's religious persecution during the early decades of the Catholic Church, 4th Century, had more to do with state policy and politics within Rome than it did religious observance. The Roman Emperors of this period were on a sinking ship and they knew it.

They were looking for Unity and Christianity was one branch they grabbed to keep them from sinking, or slow them from sinking. Thus the Actions of the Emperors of this time had more to do with supporting and building their power bases against enemies real or perceived. The "Christian" church was actually involved in it's own internal struggles with Heretical teachings at this time. These "Heretical" teachings like Arianism actually controlled christianity for several decades. Dealing with such Heretics consumed most of the energy of 4th, and 5th century Christians. I think historically we call them heretics, but in reality it took about 150 years after the Romans got involved for the Christian religion to organize itself under one widely accepted set of doctrines.

It wasn't for centuries later after the coronation of Charlemagne(25 December 800 AD) where church officials began to rule over the laity rulers of Europe. Roman Emperors were themselves often deified in life or in death. They were Gods to most of their people. Constantine I who would be the first baptized Roman Emperor (baptized on his death bed) was in fact venerated by the Mithrianism(*) prior to this death. (Sol Invictus ("Unconquered Sun") was the official sun god of the later Roman Empire and a patron of soldiers. )

(*) Not to be confused with Zoroastrianism which worshiped the God Mithria in Persia. The Roman religion of the same name is mostly considered independent to the religion practiced in Persia. The Roman's brand of Mithrianism was the Romans first attempt at binding the people to the Emperor. Their brand of Mithrianism was a cult of loyalty to the Emperor and was heavily changed by the Romans from its Persian roots. Rome's Mithrianism was based in the Roman Military and was male only.

In the Time of Charlemagne, who was crowned by the Pope, Rulers legitimacy was tied to divine right. Divine right was something a powerful church could control. Excommunicating a Ruler, who ruled by divine right or withholding the Church's approval of a ruler were powerful ways the church had to effect noblemen in the following centuries. But the 4th century was not that way.

The Inquisition, Crusades and the part of the Middle Ages referred too as the Dark Ages were some of the outcomes of this Church over State phenomena. When church leaders had the power to dictate to royals and impose their will on the state. Prior to that religious persecution was just part of the culture and less a doctrine from a central command structure. Church leaders needed Rome in the 4th and 5th centuries to make them relevant.

How did they stamp out "all other religions"? They really didn't. Long before Christians had the power over secular rulers, the "christian church" split (the great schism). The western empire fell to the barbarians and Rome catered to their new overlords breaking with Orthodoxy. Rome in the West, Orthodox Christianity in the East. When the Western Church (Catholics) was most assertive in repressing dissension the seeds of the reformation were sewn, and since the reformation Western Christianity has fractured into many branches. If you study Orthodox Christianity, Protestantism, and Roman Catholicism contemporary practitioners considered them separate religions not one religion. They fought as many wars amongst each other as they ever did amongst non Christians.

Problems: / Followup Questions Problems: It does not explain how Christianity either provided the societal coherence the emperor was allegedly seeking

Christianity didn't. The Romans who sought to promote religion to unify the empire failed in the long run. Constantine saw christians going into the arena to be killed gruesomely singing and rejoicing. Constantine prior to becoming Augustus(Western Emperor) actively persecuted christians. He saw the Christian's behavior as a sign of selflessness and bravery which he coveted for his empire, and his legions. One essay I read in graduate school said Constantine wanted such bravery in his legions. Constantine was engrossed with what he could accomplish with a few legions of such dedicated people. Only it really never materialized. The facts were Christians of the early fourth century were pacifists, and far from being able to unify Rome, Rome spent much of the next 100 years trying to unify Christianity. There was no unity among christians in the early 4th century, Christians from different cities/continents didn't agree on details about their faith. Christianity would be consumed for the fourth century in trying to figure out which doctrine among several competing candidates(hericies) would be accepted. One doctrine would dominate for a time, and then be flipped and considered heretical, then one of the previous heretical doctrines would be accepted.. on and on it went for nearly the entire 4th century. Rome was not unified by the Christians, nor were the Christians unified quickly or very long by Rome.

or how it was able to suppress the other cults completely.

Christianity did not suppress the other cults in the fourth century. Rome did that. Why would Rome do that? Different reasons for different cults. Some pagans, like the historical Roman pagans picked the western emperor in a civil war with the eastern empire and lost. The Roman Pagans were associated with traditional Roman values in a time of dramatic change. Ultimately they bet on the wrong horse.

Some formerly permitted cults/religions lost favor with the Emperor because christianity looked more promising for their goals. In general though when the western Roman Empire really started to crumble in the 5th century. The Catholic church in the west was no longer just 10% of the population it was when when Constantine first started promoting it. They had the numbers on the Roman Pagans, and they were quick to make inroads with the Barbarians by both adopting pagan customs as well as impressing the pagans with the utility and power of their god. This is where the catholic church got incense, saint medals and various other rituals, not found in Orthodox Christianity which was not exposed to the same barbarian invasions. As Christianity made inroads and converted the barbarians invaders of Western Europe, Christianity was itself changed. That is ultimately your answer, Christianity once organized by the Romans, became more adaptable at seeking favor and courting power from the various rulers which it had to contend with in very turbulent times. That was all fifth to tenth century Christianity. As for exterminating non Christians, or Christians of other doctrines which the Catholic Church was also very active with for much of it's history, you can chalk that up to having obtained critical mass of population and just the continuation of the same kinds of xenophobic behaviors many other religions had expressed before them when in control over the same populations. Ultimately christianity would have the numbers, the organization, and political capital with the Rulers of Western Europe to exert such policies.

However, christianity did not exert control over the Emperors of Rome in the fourth century, the Roman emperors elevated, organized, supported and used the church for their own reasons. Reasons christians of the time with their constant squabbling over doctrine weren't all that helpful with.

This period in the early fourth century is also when Christianity became obsessed with Relics. The Roman Emperor would send out an expedition to the holy lands and come back with the holy grail, the cross which Jesus was crucified on, the spear of destiny, and the bones of various saints. He who owned the most holy relics must be closer to god, having collected such godly things. And that's one way in which the Roman Emperors bought influence in the church, or placed themselves above church officials. Rome was less concerned with doctrine and more concerned with the church being universally accepted, there be standards, and that it grew to be a force for unity. This is where the marriage between church and state was born. The power dynamic of that marriage would be turned on it's head in 800 AD with the coronation of Charlemagne, where ultimately the Roman Catholic Church would not only become a temporal power with the gift of Pepin(forgery), but a superpower throughout Europe. But that was all 500 years after Constantine first had the bright idea to promote religion as a seed for societal stability and unity in his empire.

Anyway when Western Rome started to withdraw from outer regions and contract in on itself (end of 4th and 5th century, Last Western Roman Emperor was Romulus Augustulus who ruled for less than one year 31 October 475 AD – September 4 476 AD). The Pagans were still there. When the Hellenistic Neoplatonist philosopher Hypatia was murdered by Christians in 415 AD, she was herself a pagan. Pagans were out of favor in the fifth century AD when Rome began contracting and ultimately fell, but they were still there.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Semaphore
    May 26, 2018 at 17:13

Part of this was pointed out in a program (from the eighties) called Testament.

Christianity started out as a death sentence being a non-state religion. It slowly moved to a tolerated religion as it became popular with the middle and lower classes. Few people made much of the Roman gods but the rituals and organizational structure were essential to the hierarchy of the state.

When another purge of Christians was contemplated it was seen that much of the workers, the mechanism of the state and virtually all charities were run by Christians. About then Constantine declared it the state religion. That's when Christianity soon became mandatory. Constantine himself remained unconverted, playing both sides until his death. Example: Declaring Sunday and leaving it ambiguous as to Son or Sun-day. Both Pagans and Christians were pleased.

The state doing what it does its intolerance began to work its wonders. It's the Roman State that brutally eliminated all opposition to Christianity, in God's mercy. Some of the rituals of the Catholic (Universal) church are nearly identical to those of the ancient Roman one. They went from brand X to brand Y but they are still in charge and that's what counts.

This leaves behind the cognitive dissonance of a religion of tolerance and peace practiced by intolerant people doing violence to prevent opposition, and a belief in humility and poverty covered over with layers of gold. Martin Luther was the reaction to this.

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    Son and Sun are homophones in English and close in some other Germanic languages, which Constantine did not speak. Martin Luther was not particularly tolerant of Catholics, Jews or other Protestants
    – Henry
    May 22, 2018 at 8:01
  • Despite Germanic or not, it is known that Constantine had this in mind as demonstrated on a coin of his with references t both the sun and to Christ. Luther was reacting to the church being such a for-profit affair. Few tolerant Europeans survived then or now.
    – Elliot
    May 22, 2018 at 17:04
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    @Elliot You are talking about bronze coins (radiates?) with Constantine on the obverse and Sol invictus on the reverse. Like this one. Such coins were minted very early in Constantine's reign (when Christianity was still illegal) and Constantine was not the first emperor to do that. Latin words filius and sol do not sound alike. But you are right in so far that Christians embraced the dies Solis along with other pagan traditions.
    – 0range
    May 22, 2018 at 17:34
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    That's when Christianity soon became mandatory Nope. You are at least 50 years out of the time line Theodosius, who was about 50 years after Constantine; when it became his religion, it was sort of a default that it became the Empire's religion since he was emperor. May 23, 2018 at 21:50

How did they manage to stamp out all other religions?

It must be noted that "Jesus the Christ" never actually existed as a human being in history.

"Jesus the Christ" was created by council based on the attributes of "Serapis" whom was created to appease Ptolemy I political goal of being recognized and worshiped as a deity within the Ancient Egyptian temple societies. Rome used the created creature "Jesus the Christ" for similar political and social purposes, see The Historical Origin of Christianity by Walter Williams.

"christianity" was created as a mechanism of inculcating the native population with the idea of an invading military powers' ruler being deified, to suppress decent and promote the image and likeness of the invading ruler.

As to how "christianity" did "replace" pagan belief systems, that is a simple matter: warfare against the people in many forms, including confiscating their sacred texts; making political deals with influential persons in the communities which Rome conquered militarily which gave those persons status over the persons whom previously practiced their own forms of spirituality; incorporating the concept of a "Jesus the Christ" into the existing spirituality practices of the conquered peoples (though this took several hundred years to achieve).

In short, to answer your inquiry warfare, deceit, treachery, tyranny and oppression of militarily conquered peoples over a substantial period of time.

Pagans were "converted" to "christianity" by force: armed conflict by the now "christian" Roman armies. If armed aggression did not suffice, political favors were granted to the native, indigenous "leaders" whom were able to convince their people to believe in "chritianity", in exchange for either economic or political benefits, or, their lives.

The entire history of "christianity" is based on conquering the native, indigenous peoples of this planet; psychologically, economically, physically, culturally, politically; and in any other form of activity which persons engage in, where the culture of the invader or ruler at the time is taught as the ideal, for example, "Kill the Indian in him, and save the man.", where boarding schools were used in the U.S. to attempt to "christianize" the native individual, to control the individuals' scope of thought after the "christian nation" having taken the native groups' land by force.

It is fitting as a description of the political tactic for Rome to use "christianity", as their predecessors the Greeks did, to rally the energy of the populace at large to a single institution that the state had control of, to borrow from an summary of the moral of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

rudolph was exactly as useful as the other reindeer. the moral is deviation from the norm will be punished unless it is exploitable -ritavonbees

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    Almost positive: "Judaism" is indeed not as old as commonly conceptualised. Mainstream: But it had predecessors, very close & old predecessors (Israelites etc), and its evolution into what is known today is almost exactly contemporary with the development of Christianity. Search words for scholar's debates: "parting of the ways". –– On the negative: "Serapis connection/base" needs proof and explanation spelled out here, as does the rest of this A. ("In short" is much too short) It might help to type a quote or 2 from the book… Jun 2, 2018 at 16:59
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    Besides the above: What about Jainism, Zoroastrianism, Stoicism, Hinduism, Daoism, Buddhism(s), various mystery cults, etc.? (Heck, you could make a decent argument for Confucianism and Epicureanism.) It seems like defining the first religion as Christianity requires defining religion as evangelical western monotheism.
    – Random
    Jun 2, 2018 at 18:13
  • @LangLangC "Isrealites" exist only as a fiction in the stories of the Bible. The Bible is historically worthless. "christianity" is directly based on the Serapis. Alexander wanted to be included as a deity within the temple societies of Ancient Egypt after the invasion of 332 B.C.E. Eventually Serapis was created by a single temple. Serapis became "Jesus the christ". Fundamentally the "how" is clearly stated in the answer: "warfare, deceit, treachery, tyranny and oppression of militarily conquered peoples over a substantial period of time". Exactly how is that is not clear enough? Jun 2, 2018 at 21:33
  • @Era The schools of thought that you listed are not religions. Religion is an evangelical western concept, adopted by groups that came into contact with "the west". The spread of christianity is directly related to military and political conquest by "the west" christianity is simply an arm of so-called "western civilization"s body politic. Persons can believe in a "Jesus the Christ", but that is mere a belief, as there is no historical record of a "Jesus the Christ" ever existing as an actual human being. History proves christinity has been used for conquest from its inception to the present Jun 2, 2018 at 21:43
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    Ok, fair enough. Your definition of religion and historical narrative place you pretty far outside the bounds of academic credibility, but I know I’m not going to convince you of that. Cheers.
    – Random
    Jun 2, 2018 at 21:51

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